David Wachen

Thousands of people without homes do not have the opportunity to celebrate their birthdays in traditional ways such as with a party, family dinner or a simple birthday cake.

Two siblings, Allison and Robert Wachen, recently founded a Montgomery County chapter of Birthday Cakes 4 Free. The charity gathers volunteers to make and decorate cakes that are then distributed to homeless shelters, senior houses, local Boys and Girls Club of America chapters and homes for socially and economically disadvantaged kids. This November, Allison and Robert’s chapter baked and delivered its 500th cake to be distributed by the Family Services Team of Interfaith Works, a poverty alleviation nonprofit in Montgomery County.

Birthday Cakes 4 Free is a national organization founded in 2008 by California-based dental hygienist Elicia Hammond. Today there are 60 chapters operating in 28 states across America, according to www.birthdaycakes4free.com. The network’s mission is to help cake recipients feel valued by creating a joyful memory in their lives.

The idea for a local chapter began when Allison was buying groceries with her family and saw a homeless man with two children sitting on the sidewalk, she said in an interview with Street Sense. Written on his cup were the words “Donate for my boy’s birthday.”

Soon after, Allison read about Birthday Cakes 4 Free in a magazine and decided to start a chapter. Now, she heads up volunteer recruitment, organizes frequent baking events and coordinates cake deliveries. She also makes and decorates lots of cakes, a pre-existing hobby of hers. Allison, an 11th grader at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, asked her tech-savvy brother Robert, two grades her junior, to help with the project. He designed the website, including the online store, as well as the t-shirts and cards that are sold in there.

The local chapter of Birthday Cakes 4 Free has over 150 volunteers who collectively bake between 50-90 cakes a month that are distributed to 11 charities in Montgomery County and the Washington metropolitan area. To learn more or get involved with the local chapter, visit: http://www.mococakes.com.